Massachusetts U.S. Senator Ed Markey campaigned in Pittsfield Saturday as he tries to fend off a challenge from one of the most famous names in politics.
The visit brought out a crowd of Markey fans to Dottie’s Coffee Lounge on the brisk fall morning. On stage with Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer and North Adams Mayor Tom Bernard, Democratic state representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier introduced the state’s junior senator to the largely older audience.
“Senator Markey has had the back of the people of Pittsfield and the people of Berkshire County," said Farley-Bouvier. "He shares our values when it comes to climate change, he shares our values and really our pocketbook issues when it comes to how Charter Spectrum is totally screwing us.”
“I’m here in order to continue the resistance to fight against Donald Trump and his regressive policies that are very destructive of the values which are held most deeply here in the Berkshires,” said the senator.
Markey went to Beacon Hill in 1973, before an almost 40-year run in the U.S. House. Now, as he runs for a second term in the Senate, he faces stiff primary opposition in the form of Congressman Joe Kennedy, 38, who is challenging Markey along with Shannon Liss-Riordan and Steve Pemberton. At 73, Markey reflected on the role age plays in the national dialogue about the coming election.
“Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 10 days ago said that ‘Ed Markey is the generational change the country has been waiting for,’ so on the big issues of healthcare, the Green New Deal, Gun Control, I have been leading and I will continue to lead,” he told reporters.
“I’m 70 myself, and I feel like I’ve still got a lot of energy and I’m going strong," said Louise Farkas, of Pittsfield, who was there to wish Markey well. “He’s got experience, and he’s using it for the right purposes. Age isn’t really a factor.”
“I feel like some of the older members of politics are the ones standing in the right place," said 19-year-old Argenis Herrera. A sophomore at Williams College, Herrera was one of the rare young faces at Dottie’s.
“For example, both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are, you’d say, old, and they have more or less the right stance on many issues,” he told WAMC.
Kennedy has staked part of his candidacy on the message that a new generation must take up the mantle of leadership in the U.S.; Herrera is skeptical.
“I just don’t think generational change is enough to launch a campaign, and I believe he is more running on the Kennedy name than he is real issues," said the student. "Markey has been a defender of progressive issues for very long now. He’s a signer of the Green New Deal. And that’s where I stand. And I don’t see why he should be challenged if he’s in the right place.”
He did add a caveat.
“Although I would like to see politics in general shift towards a more younger generation – but at the time that’s not our biggest concern,” said Herrera.
Sheila Irvin chairs the Berkshire Democratic Brigades – a grassroots organization whose goal is to “Elect Local, State and National Democrats.” While the group does not endorse candidates in primary battles, Irvin echoed concerns about Kennedy’s challenge to Markey that host Farley-Bouvier has also expressed.
“There’s many Democrats who are concerned that energy, funds, support will be scattered, rather than focused on the presidential candidate, whoever that candidate turns out to be," she told WAMC. "So I think that there’s a discomfort for a lot of Democrats that we’re going to be distracted by this, rather than having people able to focus on the main situation – which is the horror in Washington D.C.”
As for Markey, the septuagenarian made sure he put his most energetic foot forward as the long walk to September’s primary continues.
“This is the most energized I have ever been in my entire political life," he told reporters. "Donald Trump is the worst president that we have ever had, and every day, seven days a week, I get up to fight him, and I’m going to continue that as long as the people of Massachusetts give me the honor of representing him.”